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Women's Basketball: Strong start and a sluggish follow as Team USA topples Croatia

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

It started off the way they had scripted it, but after a hot start for the Team USA women's basketball squad, a sharp fade resulted in a close game until the fourth. But the Americans' defense showed up big time on their way to an 81-56 win in their opening game against Croatia.

Team USA kicked out to 19-7 lead early in the second quarter, but the Croatians hit five of their six three-pointers to take the lead at one point. From there it turned into a scrap, with the Croatians working over the USA inside, and at one point lead by just one in the third. Marija Vrsaljko scored nine in the corner to pace Croatia.

The lead was just six after three quarters, and a stunning upset seemed within reach.

But in the fourth quarter, Team USA ratcheted up the intensity and went on a 16-0 run to take command. They outscored Croatia 28-9 in that quarter to put the game away. Tamika Catchings dominated on the glass, pushing the lead out of reach. Tina Charles lead the way for the Americans with a double-double (14-10) and Sue Bird added five assists, but it was their defense in the fourth quarter that ended Croatia's upset bid, holding their opponent to just nine points in the final frame.

Overall, not a great start to pool play for Team USA, but a strong finish made the point clear that they're still the talented team they're expected to be. Team USA facs Angola on Monday.

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